Last week we visited a robotics micro-factory in Toowoomba, a regional Queensland city a few hours west of Brisbane. Ben Leamon runs Dcisiv Technologies, an operation set up to manufacture under license the Dexter HDI — a 7-axis robot designed by Haddington Dynamics based in Las Vegas. It was inspiring to see this young entrepreneur with a passion for Australian manufacturing in robotics and setting up this micro-factory.
The Dexter HDI is a fully-articulated, agile and precise robotic arm that records how an operator moves the arm and this movement can be played back with high precision. Parts of the arm are 3D printed while other parts are mass produced. The 3D printing aspect of the design allow for both customization and the ability to produce complex parts that would be difficult to do with injection mold techniques. If you are interested in the complexity of such a build, check out this series of videos by Haddington Dynamics.
Ben studied mechanical engineering and economics to support his keen interests in robotics and business. He has seen an opportunity for local manufacturing of robotics, especially so given the advancements of 3D printing, and embraced the micro-factory concept. By harnessing 3D printing technology that allows the printing of complex forms reinforced with continuous carbon fibre filament, Ben was able to set up a business to custom make this very articulate robot.
“After many months discussion with Haddington Dynamics and a trip to Las Vegas, we secured a license to manufacture the Dexter HDI in Australia. This is a fundamentally different approach to manufacturing which utilises a distributed manufacturing method rather than a centralised manufacturing method – enabled by 3D printing,” Ben told us from his compact operation in Toowoomba.
Ben went on to explain that Dexter HDI is capable of 25 micron repeatability and 3kg payload capacity – which is remarkable accuracy given the encoder disks are 3D printed. The encoder is an innovative system using analogue and optical feedback from each encoder block at the point of rotation. An on-board micro-computer has been programmed to evaluate the optical feedback at high speeds. Because the encoders are at the point of rotation on the arm, any backlash in the system is accounted for within the control loop.
Neatly stacked on a rack in Ben’s workspace are the 3D printers that make his product design highly adaptable. Ben shows off a rather complicated looking housing produced by his printer. He explains that the 3D printers aren’t limited to making robotic parts – any part that can be modeled using 3D CAD modelling software can be 3D printed – opening up huge possibilities for local manufacturers.
We asked Ben for his advice for young people thinking about a career in robotics.
You can find Dcisiv Technologies at www.dcisiv.com.au and Dexter HDI at https://www.hdrobotic.com/dexter/ and some advanced 3D printing technology that enables printed plastic to be reinforced with continuous fibre at Markforged https://markforged.com/.